Lead in your property: What landlords need to know

lead paint issuesLandlords renting residential properties in New Zealand have a legal duty to ensure their rental homes are free from health risks posed by lead. If your property was built before 1980 you must assume it contains lead-based paint unless you can prove otherwise with records or testing.

Today we are aware of the dangers of lead toxicity, so modern paints only contain negligible traces of the poison and therefore pose no hazard to health. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that evidence of this began to surface, and it took until around 1980 for the use of lead-based paint in New Zealand to be phased out altogether. Find out how to manage lead paint safely here.

Lead is considered a significant public health risk due to its potential side effects, most notably on children and unborn babies. Ingesting the toxin can seriously and potentially even fatally damage the brain and central nervous system, particularly those that are still developing. Even healthy adults and pets are at risk from the consequences of lead poisoning, however, so its presence must be eliminated, isolated or minimised.

If the lead-based paint has been painted over in more recent years with a non-toxic paint then, as long as the overcoat is in good condition, its risk to health may be negligible. However, when the overcoat begins to deteriorate or gets damaged, the lead can be exposed and the danger will return. The process of lead paint removal itself poses significant health hazards, so it should ideally be carried out by an experienced professional. It is your duty to inform your contractors about the presence of lead-based paint in the property, and to ensure they are competent in carrying out this specialist work. If you intend to remove the paint yourself, you must equip yourself with sufficient safety knowledge before you start work. Sanding and water blasting carry their own risks as they can displace older paint that may contain lead. Sanding is particularly hazardous due to the fine, airborne particles that are created from it.